Monday, 29 November 2010

A secret

...I'm exhibiting in Muscat on the 6th and 7th December, that's in one week, and it's my first ever! Full details are over on my other blog here.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Camping Qatari style

Jump. ©Sue Pownall
Last Friday, at the end of the Eid break, I joined expats and Qataris on a escape from the city. Through meeting a Qatari guy working at the Magnum photography exhibition, a camping trip in the southern part of the country was organised, by an inland sea, Khor al-Udeid. Unfortunately, for me, due to normal delays/ miscommunication /hanging around we arrived at our camp dune at sunset. I would have preferred to arrive an hour or so earlier, but such is life. A couple decided to jump from our chosen camp spot down the dune, which looked good fun, but I preferred to just take photos sitting part way down.
A busy roadway across the dunes.
Due to it being Eid (like Christmas or Easter) and a Friday (European Sunday), with perfect weather (under 30c) the desert was not the quiet haven that I expected, but a mass of 4x4s and quad bikes dune bashing, as well as lights and noise from numerous camps.
Home from home.
In true Qatari style, we had a generator ugh for lights and a flat screen tv in case of boredom. I must admit it was funny watching others try and play volleyball just out of the glare of the lights, however I don't think any expats took advantage of the tv. Thankfully the generator was turned off around 1am. Ah peace.
Night volleyball.
However, by 5.15 it was light again as dawn broke across the sea. btw the land opposite is Saudi Arabia and we saw border patrols driving up and down their coast most of the night.
Dawn through my tent flaps.
We broke camp fairly early and took a circuitous route back across some huge dunes. Shortly before reaching the paved road we passed a huge herd of camels (is that the collective noun???). This is what the camel drover wears every day, he didn't dress like this for tourists!
Qatari man & his camel. ©Sue Pownall

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Dreams can come true!

Last night a childhood dream of mine was realised... I got to see John McEnroe play tennis against Bjorn Borg. Way-back-when, I used to play tennis at school and during Wimbledon week, my friends and I divided into two camps; Mac supporters, and those who liked boring ice-cool Borg. Guess who I always cheered for??? They are both still amazing players, despite having got old. They played a 2 set match, which went to a tie-break, and finally a win for Mac YEAH!
Mac waiting for the ball.
Mac in action - serving.
Being interviewed by Peter Flemming post match.
Then after the interval there was a master's doubles match. Unfortunately, Peter McNamara & Peter Flemming didn't/couldn't play, so Mac & Borg played instead with Mansour Bahrami and Ilie Nastase. I couldn't believe my luck seeing Mac play twice. Mansour is the funniest player, I last saw him play in Dubai November '07, and his tricks and antics still continue. I have never laughed so much in a tennis match, especially as Mac also played up coming out with the trademark "you can not be serious" and questioning line calls, hawkeye etc.
The players with Asian games mascots (2011).
Borg / Bahrami v McEnroe/ Nastase
Mansour Bahrami.
Mac & Ilie Nastase discuss tactics.
All over sniff.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Who said Doha was quiet???

Museum of Islamic Art. ©Sue Pownall
Time here in Doha is whizzing by; two weeks ago I had a manic week and I am now only just catching up with my blog. 
Be warned, this is a long post.
Purple trees at the tennis. ©Sue Pownall
First up on Wednesday 27th October was the WTA tennis championship. I’m not really that interested in the women’s tennis, but have enjoyed the live tennis I saw in Dubai, so thought I’d go one evening. When I got my ticket I was hoping to go to Oman for Tess’ Halloween party on Thursday as I miss my Omani friends and Tess throws the best parties! However, I’m also pleased I didn’t go as there was so much going on that week. I couldn’t go to Oman as I still hadn’t got my passport back from immigration here. The first match was between the world’s number 2, Vera Zvonareva, and a very annoying girl... every time she hit the ball she squeeked, Belarusian Victoria Azarenka. To quote Al Jazeera International, it was "an uninspiring opening match" and the first set seemed to go on forever, but I stayed as I wanted to see Kim Clijsters play Jelena Jankovic in the 2nd match, so I went and had a snack and walk around during the 2nd set. Finally, it was over and when interviewed the winner, Zvonareva, said it was the longest 2 sets she had played, EVER. Second match was a lot more exciting with both Kim and Jana playing really well. I didn’t stay for the last match as it was already after 9.30 by the time those two were over and I was worried about getting up the next day. You can see the sketches I did over on my art blog.

The QPO & Nitin Sawhney providing music for The Throw of Dice.
Next day, I went to the Doha Tribeca Film Festival (DTFF) with two colleagues. We had a wander around then went into the newly-built open air theatre to see the 1929 Indian silent movie, The Throw of Dice, complete with written dialogue between scenes. Music was provided by the British composer Nitin Sawhney who played with the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra.  It was free entry and surprisingly it was quite gripping. However,  we had to leave to go and see the film  Certified Copy  with Juliette Binoche, which we had tickets for. It was very “clever”, but I will need to see it again on dvd to tell if I liked it or not... It didn’t finish until 11pm and I was so tired having got up at 5.20am I think I missed some vital subtleties, then again maybe I didn’t like it.
Leaving the city. ©Sue Pownall
On Friday, in the middle of this crazy week I had the opportunity to go out on a dhow with the social group I went to the Egyptian restaurant with (mentioned here). It was a beautiful day, especially as the temperature here has started to drop. First stop was the coastguard boat, where our pilot shouted out the boat number and his mobile number – a shortage of modern technology I think- then we sailed out of the bay to Banana Island. 
A dhow smaller than ours at Banana Island. ©Sue Pownall
Dropping anchor we discovered the boat didn’t have a dingy, so we jumped in the water and swam ashore. The water was cooler than when I went to the beach, but it was far from cold, also clear and fairly clean. The island was a bit dirty due to litter, not helped by the litter bin being full and obviously hadn’t been emptied in a while. I walked to the other side, where there was a huge breakwater, then hot-footed back to the sea, as my feet were burning. Back on board we had a barbeque before we headed back to Doha. All in all the trip was about 5 hours long from setting sail, about enough for me because I didn’t get bored, but probably would have if it had been much longer.

The First Grader director & stars.
Saturday afternoon at DTFF, I was privileged to have a ticket for the Middle East première of The First Grader. This film is the most moving, beautiful film I have ever seen. The cinematography, acting, and script are all superb. It was voted The Audience Award for Best Film, and it was thoroughly deserved. I gave it 5/5. At the QandA afterwards the audience, after giving a standing ovation, were too stunned to ask anything. Justin Chadwick, the producer, is one of the nicest, genuine, down-to-earth men I've been lucky enough to meet. I met him outside the cinema afterwards and gushed how amazing I thought the film as tears still ran down my face; it is such an emotive film.

The madness continued on Monday night when my Canadian friend Tracy and I had tickets for a comedy show at the Sheraton hotel. I met her there at 7.30 for 8 and it was seriously over-subscribed and there weren’t seats available. We were lucky as we managed to get seats in the VIP area, comfy seats 3 rows from the stage, some people sat on the floor and 300 got turned away! Naturally the show started late as they tried to get everyone seated. They didn’t take a break to make up but still finished after 11pm. It started with some amateurs who had taken part in a competition, including a Qatari man and woman, and then continued with the professionals. I had seen Ahmed Ahmed before in Muscat a year or so ago. The show was great, very funny, but I was dead on my feet by the time I got home. My alarm seemed to go off 2 minutes after I went to sleep too. After work on Tuesday I went straight to bed on getting home, at 3pm, and woke up at 5.30. I had to check to see if it was evening or the next morning as it was dark. Sunset is about 5.15 or possibly earlier now, but luckily it was the evening, so I got up for dinner.

I took it easy for the rest of the week before going out on Saturday to hear/see the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra again. They are lots better than ROSO; however they are 99% foreign musicians whereas in Oman they are 99% Omani. The venue although acoustically good wasn't that great for viewing the orchestra, but I enjoyed the evening. Now I am on a week's break for Eid, but will write about that in my next post.

Eid Mubarak        عيد مبارك

Monday, 25 October 2010

Photo diary

Life is a bit busy, so I thought a photo diary would be a good way to catch up the last few weeks. Since I last posted, I've been up north to a beach.  Yes it was empty apart from us.
Road to the beach.
I've seen a free show of Spanish folklore and flamenco dance, at the Doha National theatre.
Waiting for VIPs to arrive and the start.
Twice, I've been sketching with fellow artists, the first time as part of the WorldWide SketchCrawl, which was my fourth one.
WWSkC #29
My new class in my new location consists of just 4 men who are great to teach, and the classroom has all the modern technology needed (and a glut of white boards - what can you write on 6 boards?).
My office & classrooms are on the 2nd floor.
My classroom.
I went to 2 photo exhibitions at Katara, the cultural village, and got to see the awesome set up for the Doha Tribecca Film Festival, which opens tomorrow, and I am really excited about. The first exhibition was "Honor Kalbhi" for the Venezuelan cultural week. Then the awesome "In our time: The World as seen by Magnum photographers, 1936-1987". Check it out.
Part of the amphitheatre: 3 days before the opening.

Friday, 8 October 2010

A new start: Doha

Sunset downtown Doha.
Three weeks ago I arrived in Qatar, so here is my overdue post on life so far. The delay has been due to tiredness. I get up for work at 5.15am to be collected at 6 and return around 3pm. After a late lunch and maybe a nap, by 5.30pm it is then dark. It is still a bit hot and currently dusty to wander about in the evenings, so it's easier to turn on the tv and computer and relax. I'm not the only one who is tired, my trainees frequently sleep in class as you can see in the picture.
Hopefully not because of the lesson.

Over these last few weeks, I have had one class of 8 students, nice lads except one, Mohammed who is disruptive and I'm sure is only there to spend time with his friends. They are low level trainees aged between 20-28 waiting to get into Qatar Petroleum once they pass the training. On Sunday I am going to work in a new site, with actual employees, so hopefully they will be more motivated. My colleagues all seem nice and I have spent a few evenings with some of them, although due to the schedule going out on a work night rarely happens.
My apartment building in evening light.
There are about 28 of us working in different sites and nearly all of us live in the same apartment block. The apartment is one bedroom with a reasonable lounge. There is free internet, which is both a blessing and a curse, also a basic tv satellite package. I’m on top floor to the left without a balcony. The left seems the best side to be on as there is construction all around, but is muffled most of the time by the adjacent building. It is in a good area with a supermarket 2 minutes away, also a small mall with a cinema. La Cigali Hotel is a block away and the Ramada Hotel 2 or 3 (a 5 minute drive), whilst near the Ramada are lots of restaurants..
Nearest supermarket.

I have been very, very tired what with new job, new climate, and silly time to get up, but have been out a couple of times. On the first Thursday and again last night, I went down the corridor and joined some colleagues for a chilli, which was nice. On the 27th, I was picked up by Susi, who I know through an online social networking group, and with a friend of hers we went to the Qatar Professional Women’s Network for their monthly event. I met some lovely women and look forward to meeting them again. There was a woman in abaya & scarf alone, so I thought it was my chance to meet a Qatari woman – she’s from northern England, works here and was very interesting to talk to. Can you spot me in the picture below? After the event, the 3 of us drove to an Egyptian restaurant to meet with the social group we belong to. Again, a great group, I think there were about 35 of us there, and we had a huge feast of mezzeh: fresh bread, hummous, falafel etc. We left before 10, so it wasn’t too difficult to get up the next morning. Having said it's rare to go out on a work night, I did again the following night.
A face in the crowd. QPWN September event at Bistro 61.
You cannot go in bars here without your original of your passport or a resident’s card. My passport is currently with my company as they process my residency etc., however, I was fortunate enough to get it back for the 28th. Then, clutching it tightly, I found a taxi and went to the Ramada. I could have walked quicker as the traffic was appalling. Once there I met with the Canadians in Qatar group, I’d got an invite through the internet even though I'm not Canadian, and again met some more lovely people. I was also invited to attend next month’s meeting. Ironically, on their facebook page, there are only 6 photos of the group, of which I'm in one.
Being a tourist.
I thought I ought to do some sightseeing, so last weekend, about 8.30 on a hazy, dusty Friday morning, I caught a taxi down to Doha's Corniche. I was dropped near the fishing wharf as it has a magnificent collection of dhows moored along it. I got the obligatory tourist photo above and soon discovered that not only was it hazy, spoiling photos, but the humidity was very high. [The Weather Channel stated humidity between 58-80% with temperatures 32c at 8am] I walked around the wharf and then crossed the road to Souq Waqif, searching for an open coffee shop and the chance to get into air conditioning. Although most of the souq (market) was closed as it was Friday morning, I did find the Corner Café open. Inside over a cup of tea and a large bottle of water I rehydrated, cooled down, and sketched the counter.  The souq has been reconstruction with lots of restaurants, coffee shops, and of course a market.  Later that night, I went back to the souq with a colleague M, his boyfriend T, and 2 of T’s colleagues/friends.  We sat outside, which was cool enough with the fans blowing, watching the world go by, and eating good Lebanese food.
Souq Waqif.
There are lots of things planned for the month ahead, such as more networking events, a dhow trip, and a WTA tennis tournament. What a busy place Doha seems to be.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Think Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Last year, I posted pink photos on this blog in order to help raise awareness for breast cancer. You can revisit 2009's post here.  A year later I am doing it again and as I am now in Qatar, I am linking to their societies: Think Pink Qatar and Qatar National Cancer Society

The photos were taken in Sudan this year and are copyright © Sue Pownall / travelingsuep. Please email me if you want to use any images.

 Remember we need to raise awareness of breast cancer to protect girls like these.
What will you do this October to support Think Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month? Post your pink photos? Join a Walk for Life? Make a donation? Whatever you do, every little helps!!!

Friday, 24 September 2010

Save the rhino

Taken in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Jan 09. © All rights reserved
Two days ago , it was World Rhino Day, which was designed to draw awareness to the plight of rhinos. I took these photos whilst in South Africa and was amazed by the magnificence and grandeur of these creatures. They need to be protected!

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Jan 09. © All rights reserved

Rhinos are under siege, due to the demand for illegal rhino horn in traditional medicines – despite the fact that rhino horn has been scientifically tested and proven to have no medicinal value. According to WWF, more than 600 rhinos have been gunned down since 2005, and the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC found that rhino horn from southern Africa is destined for consumer markets in China and Vietnam.    Source:
Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Jan 09. © All rights reserved
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